Match ends, Aston Villa 2, Watford 1.
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said his players would have "a lot of belief" after they scored an injury-time winner to beat Watford and move out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Ezri Konsa's shot deflected in off team-mate Tyrone Mings in the 95th minute after Pepe Reina had launched a free-kick into the penalty area in a thrilling finish at Villa Park.
Troy Deeney had put the Hornets in front when he powerfully headed home from five yards out after Gerard Deulofeu's cross from the right.
Deeney almost grabbed a second but was denied by an excellent reaction stop from home goalkeeper Reina.
That save proved crucial as Douglas Luiz equalised when he smashed a loose ball into the net after Ben Foster had parried Matt Targett's effort, before the late winner.
The victory takes Villa up from 18th to 16th while Watford, who lost for the first time in eight matches in all competitions, drop into the bottom three and are now 19th after being 17th before the match.
Villa, who won the Championship play-off final in May to return to the Premier League, now have 25 points from 24 games with 14 league matches to go.
"I thought it was a good performance," said Smith. "We dominated the first half and were unfortunate to go a goal down as they scored with their first attack.
"But the lads showed plenty of endeavour, kept pushing and got the result tonight. It's a big win, we know there are big games to come and every game is tough.
"It does give the players a lot of belief. Teams of mine finish the season better and I'm expecting a better points haul in the second half."
Mings admits he feared red card
Konsa, who thought he had scored the winner having been originally credited with the goal, joked he was "absolutely devastated" when told after the match it had been given to England international Mings.
However, Watford will feel the centre-half was lucky to still be on the pitch at the end.
Mings had been booked just before half-time for a late challenge on Abdoulaye Doucoure and was then penalised for a deliberate handball in the second half, although the ball had hit him at close range with his arms by his side.
Referee Martin Atkinson awarded a free-kick but did not show Mings a second yellow card with the matter not going to the video assistant referee.
"Everyone has an opinion on whether Mings should have been sent off - it doesn't matter what I think," said Watford boss Nigel Pearson.
"You could see how incensed our players were but we're in the hands of the officials to get these decisions right on the field. It's happened and we can't change it."
Mings also admitted he was worried he was going to be shown a red card.
He said: "I was concerned, I'm not going to lie. The decision went our way. If they had sent me off I couldn't have had too many arguments."
Watford's 'reality check'
For Watford, this was only the second defeat since Pearson took over in December following the sacking of Quique Sanchez Flores, and Pearson described the result as a "reality check".
After a quiet opening, Watford provided the first bit of quality in the match in the 38th minute as Deulofeu got free down the right and his chipped ball into the middle was met by Deeney's powerful close-range header, which gave Reina no chance.
They should have doubled their lead before the break as Deulofeu found himself one-on-one but, from a tight angle, could only shoot into the side netting, before Reina made an excellent save to deny Deeney.
Villa were playing without a recognised striker for the fourth successive match as the signing of Mbwana Samatta, who joined on Monday in a £10m deal from Belgian side Genk, was not completed in time.
Their lack of cutting edge was shown in the opening 45 minutes as Anwar El Ghazi, playing as a makeshift centre-forward, curled an effort well over the bar from the edge of the penalty area with their only effort of note.
They at least created opportunities at the beginning of the second half, although Kortney Hause, Ezri Konsa and Trezeguet all missed chances when well placed and Targett could only head straight at Foster.
However, Luiz, who had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes, equalised when Jack Grealish released Targett and his effort was pushed into Luiz's path.
Villa had the majority of possession from then on as they pinned Watford back and pushed for a winner, which they got with practically the last kick of the game.
Rare Villa Premier League fightback - the stats
- Aston Villa ended their three-game losing streak against Watford in the Premier League, with this win their first victory against the Hornets in the competition since January 2007 (2-0).
- Villa have won a Premier League game having been behind at half-time for the first time since September 2013 (3-2 versus Manchester City), ending a run of 51 games without a victory in the competition when trailing at the break.
- Villa have scored two 90th-minute winners in a single Premier League season (Matt Targett v Brighton in October and Tyrone Mings here) for the first time since 1994-95.
- Villa have scored in nine consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since May 2007-March 2008 (a run of 16).
- Watford's Troy Deeney has scored more Premier League goals against Aston Villa (six in four games) than he has against any other side in the competition.
- Douglas Luiz's equaliser for Aston Villa was his third Premier League goal of the season and first since October 2019 against Norwich.
- Aston Villa goalkeeper Pepe Reina has conceded as many goals in his last two Premier League appearances at Villa Park (2) as he did in his first seven with Liverpool (also two).
Man of the match - Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa)
'To lose with the last kick is really disappointing' - what they said
Watford manager Nigel Pearson, speaking to Match of the Day: "This is the first setback we've had, with a few talking points as well. In all honesty we struggled to find the energy levels we have had of late.
"We dug in to score a goal in the first half and we had a really good chance to go 2-0 up. It's a disappointing situation and one we will have to come to terms with very quickly.
"We've done really well to get back in contact and maybe this is a reality check if people thought the hard work had been done and it shows how quickly things can change. To lose with the last kick of the game is really disappointing but we will bounce back."
Watford play again in only two days' time as they are at League One Tranmere in an FA Cup third-round replay after a 3-3 draw at Vicarage Road earlier this month. That game takes place on Thursday, 23 January (19:45 GMT), with the Hornets then at home against Everton in the Premier League on Saturday, 1 February (15:00 GMT).
Villa's next match is the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at home against Leicester on Tuesday, 28 January (19:45 GMT), with the first leg ending 1-1. Villa then face a big game against fellow Premier League strugglers Bournemouth on 1 February (15:00 GMT).
- 40MingsBooked at 45mins
- 4DrinkwaterSubstituted forDouglas Luizat 56'minutesBooked at 68mins
- 17TrézéguetSubstituted forVassilevat 77'minutes
- 21El Ghazi
- 6Douglas Luiz
- 27El Mohamady
- 15CathcartBooked at 77mins
- 14ChalobahSubstituted forPussettoat 75'minutes
- 37PereyraSubstituted forGrayat 81'minutes
- 16DoucouréBooked at 81mins
- 7DeulofeuSubstituted forKabaseleat 90+2'minutes
- 17João Pedro
- Martin Atkinson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 2, Watford 1.
Goal! Aston Villa 2, Watford 1. Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Ezri Konsa Ngoyo following a set piece situation.
Attempt blocked. Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tyrone Mings.
Frederic Guilbert (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Christian Kabasele replaces Gerard Deulofeu.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Craig Cathcart.
Attempt blocked. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Anwar El Ghazi.
Attempt missed. Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Matt Targett with a cross following a set piece situation.
Matt Targett (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford).
Attempt blocked. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Troy Deeney with a headed pass.
Foul by Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa).
Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Andre Gray (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Andre Gray replaces Roberto Pereyra.
Frederic Guilbert (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gerard Deulofeu (Watford).